Personal chefs aren't just for the rich anymore

ByABC News
October 9, 2007, 10:35 PM

NEW YORK -- As lives get busier with careers, kids and commutes, more people are turning to personal chefs to guarantee there's a hot meal on the table at the end of a long day.

Hiring a professional to cook for you isn't a whole lot different than hiring someone to clean your house or walk the dog, and it's not just for the wealthy, said John Moore, executive director of the United States Personal Chef Association.

"People don't have personal chefs because they have tons of money. They have them because it solves a problem: It puts dinner on the table."

Personal chefs typically prepare several days' worth of customized meals in advance, potentially for several clients. The meals are prepared and packaged, ready to be popped in an oven or microwave whenever a client wants to eat.

Some chefs charge a flat rate, while others are paid by the hour. The chef does the grocery shopping and the cleanup, which are added to a client's bill. Total costs usually range from $15 to $20 per person per meal, depending on the kind of food prepared and other related costs. That's not much different from a meal at a restaurant, "except that people don't have to go out, pay for parking or leave a tip," Moore said. "And they get to eat a meal made just for them."

The association estimates that there are just over 5,000 personal-chef businesses operating in the USA and Canada, up from about 1,500 a decade ago. The industry generates about $300 million in revenue a year, and that number is expected to double in the next five years, the association said.

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Mark Tafoya, who owns the New York-based Remarkable Palate personal-chef service, cooks for regular weekly clients and also offers one-time meal services, such as romantic dinners for two.

For regular clients, the week's meals are discussed in advance and are created in accordance with dietary needs and personal tastes. Organic, vegetarian and kosher options are available, and nothing is repeated for six months unless requested, he said.